A Closer Look at Würthwein's The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to Biblia Hebraica (3rd ed.)
Years ago, when I was still in seminary, I got in “trouble” for stating, “Textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible isn’t nearly as interesting as textual criticism of the Greek New Testament.” I said this not so much out of bias as out of ignorance. If only I had read Ernst Würthwein’s The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica, I could have understood that the history of the Hebrew Bible’s transmission is just as fascinating as that of the Greek New Testament—if not perhaps even more!
Ernst Würthwein (1909 – 1996) was a German biblical scholar and theologian who taught for years at the University of Marsburg. Numerous editions of The Text of the Old Testament (Der Text des Alten Testaments) appeared in his lifetime and became a standard introductory text on textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Although his name is attached to the current updated work we’ve released this week for Accordance, in reality everything in the title has been thorough updated and revised by Alexander A. Fischer, whose own work on the title is now in its third edition. This edition is translated into English by Erroll F. Rhodes, who also translated the pre-Fischer editions.
Fischer has strived to retain the general outline, formatting and even flavor of the original work by Würthwein, so the updated volume will still be recognizable by those who read and valued the original editions. However, this newest revision by Fischer brings the content up to date with the ongoing release of the Biblia Hebraica Quinta and also includes a new chapter on the Qumran texts.
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Fischer continues Würthwein’s same basic structure with three primary sections: A. The Hebrew Text of the Bible (covers Masoretic, Qumran, and Samaritan Texts), B. The Ancient Translations (the LXX gets a lot of coverage here, but attention is also given to Aramaic, Latin, and other ancient translations), and C. Textual Critism (serves as an introduction, guide and methodology to the subject). There is also the familiar section of “Plates” with 48 sections that include photos and descriptions of important ancient documents as well as a few helpful charts.
Accordance users might wonder how Würthwein’s The Text of the Old Testament compares to Emanual Tov’s Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. In my initial comparison, I would consider Tov’s work to be the more advanced and extensive, but that’s not to slight Würthwein. In fact, I would still recommend both works, but perhaps Würthwein is a better starting point for those new to the subject of Hebrew Bible textual criticism. And Würthwein will go into more detail on some subjects, such as the LXX. Neither are what I would call “popular” introductions to the subject, but Würthwein is the more accessible of the two. Both assume some familiarity with Hebrew, but Würthwein offers translation a bit more often (but not always) than Tov.
If you have the journal Bibliotheca Sacra in Accordance, there is an analysis of an older (pre-Fischer) edition of The Text of the Old Testament reviewed by Robert B. Chisholm Jr. in an issue from 1996.
The Text of the Old Testament
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